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Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks “Made it a power game” to defeat the Pistons

The Pistons went small, the Knicks went with the stomp

New York Knicks v Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

The New York Knicks won their third game in a row defeating the Detroit Pistons 117-104 on the road at the Little Caesars Arena. The tally is up to seven victories in the last eight games, all of them played from New Year’s Eve on.

The Knicks, who sandwiched a loss to Philly on Christmas with two more defeats on each side of that lost matchup at MSG, have now moved six games above .500 for the first time this season. New York (25-19) is still two games behind the Cavs in the Eastern Conference standings but sitting one game above Miami while occupying the no. 6 seed.

Detroit couldn’t stop the Knicks on Sunday in what marked the 12th consecutive loss of the Pistons at the hands of New York getting all the way back to Nov. 2019 when Motown defeated NYC for the last time.

“I thought Julius [Randle] set the tone for us,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Getting ready to play, I knew how well [the Pistons] had been playing, and sometimes that’s hard to get across.”

Randle led all Knickerbockers with 42 points, 15 rebounds, and four dimes on Sunday’s matinee. In doing so he became the first Knicks player to record a 40-15 game since Patrick Ewing in 1996. Randle also moved up to 25th in the all-time scoring list of the New York Knicks, overtaking Hall of Famer Bernard King with 5,486 points after yesterday’s outing.

“I thought Julius helped set the tone for being ready,“ said Thibodeau. “Whenever we needed a big bucket, he stepped up and delivered. But his defense, so many things, the rebounding is just huge. He got every big rebound down the stretch and he had some tough covers. He’s all over the place. He’s on the perimeter guarding guards and everything else. So I thought he was terrific.”

Randle himself was flattered after seeing his name written next to other Knicks legends such as Ewing and King. “Anytime I see [Bernard King] I give him great appreciation,” Randle said. “[I’m] thankful, those are pioneers for this game. We wouldn’t be able to play the game the way we do without him. I’m glad I can follow in his footsteps.”

Ewing dropped 41 on the long-gone SuperSonics. Randle bested that mark dumping one more point on Detroit. “Man, [Ewing] is a legend. Respect to him,” Randle acknowledged after his scoring outburst. “Just lets you know the kind of work that he put in when he wore his jersey. I’m honored and blessed to be able to do something that he did.”

On a “down” night, Jalen Brunson contributed 27 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Immanuel Quickley, his main backup off the pine, added 17 points to go with three boards and three dimes. They logged 42 and 34 minutes respectively even though New York led the game by as many as 20 points at the start of the second period and never relinquished the lead throughout regulation.

Mitchell Robinson struggled to drop buckets hitting just 2-of-6 field goals for four points to go with 12 rebounds, while RJ Barret (13) and Quentin Grimes (11) combined for 24 on the afternoon matchup.

Detroit cut the deficit to 105-98 in the fourth quarter but New York did enough to fend off the Pistons' effort and never allowed them to get any closer to the scoreboard.

“I’m just trying to help my teammates. We’re trying to help each other out, step up for each other,” Brunson said. “Obviously, we don’t want breakdowns to happen, but it’s part of the game and it’s really (when) we gotta help each other out. We gotta recover and I feel like I know how to get in position and take charges and I’ve always been that way.”

The Pistons were without wings and bigs Bojan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley III, and Jalen Duren, let alone missing their leader in two-guard Cade Cunningham, injured and out for the remainder of the season.

“We made it a power game,” Thibodeau said. “They went small so we rebounded the ball, we got to the line, we did the things we wanted to do to control the game.”

New York earned their 10th victory in their last 12 games played on the road and are 14-8 when playing away from home. Only the Boston Celtics (15-7) have a better record on the road.

The squad is back in NYC for another early game taking place today on MLK Day at MSG against the visiting Toronto Raptors (19-24). Tip-off at 3:00 pm EST, watchable on MSG.